New education sector buzz words are flying around these days. Terms like flipped classroom, differentiated instruction, cooperative learning and transversal skills have settled nicely into the global language of education.
New wave education terms sound good, but they’re also necessary to put meaning to a kind of learning revolution that’s recently come about worldwide.
Currently, and inevitably into the future, student exposure to web 2.0 tools, devices, and environments, invite new challenges and demands in post-primary education. Traditional instruction-based education methods don’t support today’s technology-driven, fast-paced world.
This is why a reformation of education systems must come about in order to accommodate for 21st century learning, teaching and assessment and to enable students to thrive in work and life.
But back to the buzz term, transversal skills. These skills, also known as 21st century skills, refer to a set of key competencies that are linked to achieving success in school, further education and work. They include the ability to think critically, take initiative, use digital tools, solve problems and work collaboratively. Skills like these cover a lot of ground when it comes to arming learners with the aptitude to succeed in the future.
You might agree that this sounds great in theory but how are educators expected to implement transversal skills into classroom activities, without a model to follow or tools to implement? And how are students expected to learn to develop these skills without qualified guidance and instruction?
The EU-funded project, Assessment of Transversal Skills 2020 (ATS2020), aims to tackle this issue and develop and implement new, transversal skills-related education methods and tools.
Running for three years (March 2015 - February 2018), ATS2020 is a large-scale pan-European classroom policy experiment and is set to collect data from 11 piloting countries (Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Croatia, Estonia, Greece, Finland, Ireland, Lithuania, Slovenia and Spain), from 250 schools, 1,000 teachers and 10,000 students.
With an objective of developing, assessing and evaluating transversal skills, the ATS2020 project team (17 partners from 11 EU countries) have created a framework which promotes the development and assessment of student transversal skills within assorted curricula.
Taking the form of a large-scale classroom pilot, the project’s framework is set to be implemented in piloting schools and offers participating teachers training on the development of transversal skills through a continuous professional development programme.
At piloting schools, the teachers will redesign their existing teaching plans to include digital skills and shape them so that transversal skills are actively used for the students’ in class work and out-of-class assignments. From the students’ point of view, the piloting will be part of their regular work at school and not extra-curricular activities.
This learning model is currently being implemented and evaluated in European schools and will eventually lead to policy recommendations at both national and European levels.
There are a series of steps to the ATS2020 project, which will run over the project’s lifetime of three years. These steps include designing the pilot’s learning model, developing teacher CPD in transversal skills and evaluating the project’s results. Please see a step-by-step rundown of the project’s phases here:
Step 1: Design and develop the ATS2020 Transversal Skills Framework (inclusive of the comprehensive learning model) with a focus on key transversal skills.
Step 2: Develop the ATS2020 platform and technology tools
Step 3: Design a continuous professional development programme in transversal skills development for teachers
Step 4: Train and support teachers in classroom pilot implementation of the learning model
Step 5: Develop a pre and post-pilot testing and evaluation methodology
Step 6: Create a repository of innovative learning scenarios
Step 7: Provide a comprehensive evaluation report and policy recommendations in the enhancement and assessment of transversal skills in the classroom
The ATS2020 pilot project is particularly focused on ongoing assessment of transversal skills in the classroom with a heavy focus on formative assessment, student self-assessment and effective feedback.
A pre and post-pilot testing and evaluation methodology had to be designed by the partners for ATS2020 (step 5 of the project).
Due to the complex and large-scale nature of the project, a mixed-methods design is used to gather and evaluate results. The ATS2020 research model follows a quasi-experimental and qualitative research design involving 250 schools, 1000 teachers and 10 000 students (10 piloting countries x 25 schools in each country x 2 classes x 2 teachers x 20 students per class). The qualitative element of the project includes a student and teacher questionnaire and transversal skills test that is administered to students.
As project partners engage in the testing and evaluation phase, the following two research questions are considered and addressed:
To what extent did the ATS2020 learning model promote the development and the assessment of the transversal skills defined for the purposes of the project?
How has the ATS2020 model on the development and assessment of the targeted transversal skills been implemented?
Answers to the two research questions will find whether the classroom pilot intervention was a success and conclusions will be drawn, not only on the outcome as a whole, but on individual aspects such as the development and assessment of students’ skills, the development of students’ and teachers’ attitudes to and beliefs on transversal skills etc. Second, findings will show whether the pilot intervention resembles a model that could be transformed into a scalable implementable policy that will allow for transversal skills to grow in various contexts.
The table below lays out what is meant by transversal skills. ATS2020 Transval Skills Framework aims to provide teachers and students with an innovative learning model which supports the development and assessment of transversal skills, which are to be embedded in teaching and learning.
ATS2020 to Develop, Assess & Evaluate
Goal-setting, active participation, self-assessment, formative assessment
Critical thinking, problem-solving
Listening, expressing opinions/ideas, teamwork, social & cultural understanding
Implementing ideas & taking action, thinking creatively, creating digital text
Developing digital competencies, ethical, safe & responsible use of ICT.
The main ATS2020 project outcomes for students, teachers and policy makers will be the following:
• Opportunity to develop and self-assess transversal skills
• Develop skills for self-directed learning
• Use ePortfolios to support lifelong learning
• Access to professional development training and a repository of pedagogical resources
• Share best practice and ideas
• Use digital technologies to support innovative teaching and learning
• Training in effective use of formative assessment to support student learning
• Validated comprehensive model for student learning and transversal skills assessment
• Development of competence oriented innovative learning environments
• Impact evaluation and subsequent policy recommendations at national and EU level
The Irish ATS2020 project partners are e-learning services and consultancy organisation, H2 Learning and JCT (Junior Cycle for Teachers), Monaghan Education Centre, Knockaconny. JCT is a support services for teachers and is part of the Irish Department of Education and Skills.
H2 Learning is the project’s operational coordinator. This role means that H2 Learning coordinates, organises and observes the project partners’ work throughout the project’s three-year duration. H2 Learning has a key role in the project’s Tools and Technology Work Packages (ie. Introducing project participants to digital environments and tools like Mahara and Microsoft Office 365, and instructions on their use.).
Junior Cycle for Teachers (JCT), Monaghan Education Centre has a central role in this project, particularly in the areas of CPD and in-school piloting. In the project's context, JCT draw on an extensive body of research and work conducted on Junior Cycle Reform in Ireland which extends to the remit and mission of ATS2020. JCT informed the creation of the ATS2020 framework and are essential partners in the in-school pilot aspect of the project. JCT also has a key role in the design of the Continuous Professional Development Work Package and manages the ATS2020 classroom pilot in 30 Irish schools.
Associated Irish partners are Microsoft Operations Ltd., Ireland and Trinity College Dublin, Ireland. These organisations are taking primarily taking a supportive role; disseminating and providing information, during and after the project’s development and roll-out.
Following a successful tender to the European Commission for funding, the Irish partners joined the other ATS2020 partner countries in Cyprus, in April 2015 for the project ‘kick-off’ meeting. Two meetings followed in Slovenia in July 2015 and Austria in November 2015. The next partner meeting will take place in the Clock Tower, Department of Education, Dublin on June 9th and 10th 2016.
The Irish partners have been actively involved in all work packages of the project. They contributed to the development of the project’s Framework for Transversal Skills, drawing on the 8 Key Skills of Junior Cycle (being literate, staying well, managing myself, managing information and thinking, being numerate, working with others, communicating, staying well). Thirty Irish schools have been recruited for the in-school pilot and met for a pre-pilot CPD workshop in April 2016. These schools were selected after an open call for applications to participate in the pilot implementation. Information materials and initial CPD resources have been produced to support the pilot implementation in schools.
The Irish pilot implementation will take place in the 2016-2017 academic year and will see piloting teachers focus on embedding transversal skills into teaching, assessment and learning and a renewed focus on formative assessment in the classroom. The teachers involved in the pilot will have access to innovative professional development, a supporting project mentor and will also reflect on their own learning and experiences throughout the pilot.
Both Irish partners are actively involved in disseminating the project to all education stakeholders. For more detailed information on ATS2020 see the project's brochure. ATS2020 Brochure.
Junior Cycle for Teachers (JCT) published a two-page document on ATS2020 from an Irish perspective:
Please note that this page will be updated as the project progresses.
Representatives from the 30 schools selected (out of 130 school applicants) to participate in the Irish ATS2020 pilot, attended their first CPD day on 28th April 2016 (10:15am-3:30pm) in the Drumcondra Education Centre in Dublin.
The workshop was run by Junior Cycle for Teachers and H2 Learning personnel.
During the workshop, particpants explored the concept of formative assessment and how the ATS2020 Transversal Skills Framework fits with the NCCA's Irish Key Skills Framework, among other subjects.
There was a lot of enthusastic energy in the room from the schools' representatives that day and we hope they come back with a vista of ideas on how they can apply transversal skills to their own subject areas and teachig practices.
The portal hosts CPD material that was developed for the teacher training in participating countries and includes learning scenarios and exemplar ePortfolios, case studies, recommendations and ATS2020 communities of practice.
These resources are found at:
The ATS2020 Training Booklet is here:
Following three previous partner meetings in Cyprus, Slovenia and Krems, the fourth ATS2020 partner meeting, hosted by the Irish partners, Junior Cycle for Teachers and H2 Learning, kicked off at 9am on Thursday, June 9th at the Clock Tower, Department of Education in Dublin.
Lasting for two days, the 36 partners from 11 countries discussed multiple issues at the meeting, which relate to the facilitation, development and results-evaluation of the pan-European classroom pilot.
Workshops and presentations took place throughout the two days. Workshops on developing learning designs for participating teachers, pre and post-evaluation procedures for the ATS2020 project as well as presentations on learning platforms for creating accounts (on both Mahara and Microsoft 365) were scheduled for day one.
On the second day, at 11pm the Irish Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton arrived to speak with the partners about the project and its progress to date and to offer his support.
After the Minister’s departure, partners became involved in workshops on quality assurance and project evaluation guidelines and tools as well as presentations on the dissemination of project results (spreading the word), and a means of appropriately implementing the project. A presentation on the overall project management of ATS202 took place in the final hour of the partner meeting.
Before the partners emerged from the Clock Tower at 4:20pm on Friday afternoon, the deadlines for upcoming project tasks were agreed upon by everyone and the next meeting in Finland was set for October 10th, 11th and 12th of October, 2016.
For more information about the two-day partner meeting, and to see a full photo gallery of the event, please see the 'News and Events' section of the homepage.
Thirty Irish Pilot schools are set to participate in the ATS2020 classroom experiment.
Here is a YouTube video outlining the EUfolio goals and processes.
Find a comprehensive definition of transversal skills from UNESCO.
Erasmus + programme, EU Commission, funded ATS2020. Here is the Erasmus + website.
Mahara is an open source electronic portfolio (ePortfolio) system and learner-centred Personal Learning Environment. Mahara is used in ATS2020 classroom pilot.
The OneNote Class Notebook is used in the ATS2020 classroom pilot.
Here is a list of literature that informed and influenced the development of ATS2020 project.
Here is a definition of summative and formative assessment from University College Dublin.
The use of digital strategy and tools in 21st century education feature strongly in ATS2020. Here is the Irish Department of Education and Skills' Digital Strategy for Schools 2015-2020.
Co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union
The ATS2020 project is funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
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